10 Things Google Doesn’t Care about in 2018 and You Shouldn’t Either
Article By Nick Campbell (content creator and marketer at Ahrefs),
There’s been much talk about the complexity of Google’s algorithm with its 200 ranking signals and constant updates. Latent semantic indexing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, – there are many processes shaping the way Google interprets users’ queries. At first glance, all of that may seem quite confusing. But if you explore search results, you’ll see that the engine’s algorithm isn’t as complicated as they describe it in the SEO community.
In fact, the current algorithm is a simplified version of what we had a decade ago. In its early days Google was very strict about wording. It analyzed each query letter for letter and returned results matching the original 100%. Even a single-letter mismatch was out of tolerance. But the game has taken a new turn, and today the engine ignores many verbal aspects. Instead, it puts focus on the search intent, and it’s up to every user how to phrase their queries.
Check out 10 things Google doesn’t give a damn about anymore. It will help you better understand the engine’s logic and simplify your digital marketing strategy.
1. Word Form
The verbal match is the thing of the past. Google doesn’t care whether a noun is singular or plural and, say, infinitive or gerund if it’s a verb. The engine understands that the word form doesn’t change the user intent. For example, if you want to buy a new compact camera, you’ll get roundups of the best devices on the market. Google knows that online shoppers are quite picky and won’t opt for the first camera they see.
2. Part of Speech
The next thing Google skips when processing queries is the part of speech. Let’s say you need ideas to invent a new product this year. For such a query, Google will show you results optimized for the noun “invention” rather than the verb “invent.” It understands that you may be interested to check out the latest inventions to come up with your own ideas.
3. Word Order
Google isn’t as strict about grammar as your English teacher. It doesn’t bother about the order, in which words are arranged. Here’s a quick example. In the original query, “camera” is at the end, while in search results it’s at the beginning. The word’s position has no influence on the meaning of the phrase, so Google pays no attention to it.
4. Minor Stuff
As shown above, Google turns a blind eye to the minor stuff, which also includes prepositions, conjunctions, and particles. They are used to keep our speech coherent, but the engine’s algorithm doesn’t need any coherence to process search queries. Type in a “camera for scuba diving.” Neither the title nor the content of the first-ranking post contains an exact-match phrase with a preposition.
This is the aspect, in which users and Google are like-minded. Both of us overlook small differences in the meaning of words. In the example below, the search query contains the word “gear,” whereas the top result is optimized for “equipment.” As these similar words are used interchangeably in everyday speech, there’s no point in returning different results for each synonym.
Shortening whatever possible is a common practice of online communication. Google knows about such a habit of the modern person and doesn’t mind it. If you shorten your query as shown below, Google will understand that “cam” stands for “camera” and “LA” for “Los Angeles.” It’s quite cool, since the search bar is not an essay to talk the talk.
7. Full Questions
Different people use different patterns to form their search queries. Some users type the entire questions, while others omit interrogatory constructions like “what is,” “how to,” etc. Google ignores the way a query was formed and returns results based on its meaning. If you type in the entire question “what is the speed of light,” Google will naturally get it and give you an instant answer.
If you type in the “speed of light” only, the engine will still realize it’s the same question requiring an answer and will provide it in a blink.
The instant answer you see above is shown in the Knowledge Card. As for organic results, they are also similar for both queries, with a slight divergence in positioning.
8. Meta Descriptions
At times, Google neglects meta descriptions that website owners sweat over to keep them as SEO-friendly as possible. Instead, the engine extracts the info from posts to give users direct answers right in SERP. Let’s say you are looking for the latest models of digital cameras. For such a query, Google lists those models in the place of meta descriptions. What’s interesting is that it can also provide some extra details like the price of each camera model.
9. Unspecific Queries
Users don’t always know what they are looking for, especially when it comes to innovative devices. There’s a common tendency to replace an exact term like a “drone” with a longer phrase describing its meaning like a “flying device with a camera.” Luckily, Google is OK about that phrasing, since it knows not only names of items, but also understands what they mean. That way, the engine can match your descriptive query in the search bar with the exact term in the content.
10. Needs of Minority
Along with lots of benefits, understanding of the search intent also has a pitfall. The thing is Google shows results that most users expect to see. By pleasing the majority, it neglects the minority. Let’s say you want to shop for apples. When the engine comes across the word “apple,” it thinks of the well-known tech company of the same name. That’s because most search queries are related to the technology rather than the fruit. So, in the first place users see results optimized for Apple devices.
How to Turn Google’s Careless Attitude to Your Advantage
Here comes the most interesting part – how to use these findings in your keyword research strategies. No matter what keyword generator you have at hand, it’ll definitely give you tons of ideas for your target phrase. For example, Ahrefs shows 1,800 variations of a single keyword “backup cameras.”
While a lot of keywords differ by the device model, functionality, design, and other meaningful features, there’s a good portion of suggestions that differ in phrasing only. Since Google doesn’t give a damn about them, you shouldn’t either. Here are the things to consider when filtering your keyword list.
1. Modify your keyword form as necessary.
Imagine you are reviewing a backup camera but have found an easy-to-rank keyword in the plural. Don’t try to force it into your post. Instead, use it in the singular, as this form is more natural for your content type. Google will forgive you a single-letter mismatch.
Another example is writing a guide on how to install a backup camera. There’s no need to repeat the verb “install” in its basic form all the time. You can change it to the gerund “installing” or noun “installation” throughout your copy.
2. Adapt your keyword structure to the human speech.
While Google doesn’t care about grammar, your readers do. If you’ve picked a complex yet very promising keyword, you can’t use it as is. For example, “guitar tuner app Android download” looks like a set of random words. You must reword it into a more readable phrase with an article and preposition – “download a guitar tuner app for Android.” Google won’t downgrade you in SERP because of the minutiae you add to the original keyword structure.
3. Avoid uncommon synonyms.
Sometimes, weirdly phrased keywords have a high ranking potential. Don’t let it tempt you to stuff them into your copy. There’s no guarantee your page will rank for them.
Let’s take eCommerce for example. To build web stores without programmers’ help, retailers use eCommerce platforms and ready-made templates for them. Those templates are commonly called themes for some platforms like PrestaShop. So, if you search for PrestaShop templates, Google will return results optimized for PrestaShop themes.
In the screenshot above, the first result contains the word “template” neither in the title nor in the body of the article. But such a lack doesn’t prevent it from ranking # 1 in SERP. When users type in uncommon queries, Google brings naturally worded content above pages with weird phrasing.
4. Optimize your content for abbreviated keywords.
As Google recognizes abbreviations, they are safe options for your content. To avoid any misunderstanding among readers though, you’d better mention the target word in its full form first and then repeat it as an abbreviation. That way, readers will know for sure what you’re referring to. If the abbreviation is in common use, you don’t even have to decipher it. There’s hardly anyone who doesn’t know that a “DIY guide” stands for a “do-it-yourself guide.”
Besides single words, Google is also friendly to shortening the entire questions. But you’d better keep constructions with “how to” and stuff like that. Such keywords are much easier for ranking in a featured snippet, which is the peak of SERP.
5. Use specific terms in your content.
Your tool may not suggest fruitful keywords containing specific product names like a “tripod.” But it doesn’t mean you should use descriptive phrases to reach people interested in your items. Google will put two and two together and match their descriptive queries with your terminology.
As you can see, Google’s careless attitude has a number of benefits for content optimization. You are free to modify keyword suggestions the best way to fit in your context. There’s no need to contemplate how to use an unnatural keyword naturally, which you had to do half a decade ago. If you’ve noticed any other things the engine doesn’t care about anymore, tell us about them in the comments, please.